Ohio Landslides


Yes, landslides, mud or earth flows, rock falls, and other forms of slope instability can be a problem in Ohio. Cincinnati, in fact, may be the landslide capital of the United States. Although I’m no longer in Ohio or working on landslides there, I’ve left this page as a public resource.

A U.S. Geological Survey study using data collected during the 1970s showed that Cincinnati had a higher average annual per capita landslide damage cost than cities like Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The details may now be different— populations and certainly real estate values have changed over the past 30 years— but nobody has done a follow-up study and landslides persist along the Ohio River valley and in other parts of Ohio. 

Ohio Landslide Resources

Downloadable USGS Reports (free of charge)

Baum, R.L., 1994, Contribution of artesian water to progressive failure of the upper part of the Delhi Pike landslide complex, Cincinnati, Ohio: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2059-D.

Davies, W.E., Mast, V., and Ohlmacher, G.C., 1985, Landslides and related features; Huntington, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky 1° by 2° Sheet: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 85-656.

Fleming, R.W. and Johnson, A.M., 1994, Landslides in colluvium: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2059-B.

Haneberg, W.C. and Gökce, A.Ö., 1994, Rapid water-level fluctuations in a thin colluvium landslide west of Cincinnati, Ohio: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2059-C.

Pomeroy, J.S., 1984 Preliminary map showing recently active landslides in the Marietta area, Washington County, Ohio: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 85-4.

Riestenberg, M.M., 1994, Anchoring of thin colluvium by roots of sugar maple and white ash on hillslopes in Cincinnati: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2059-E.

Online Papers and Reports

Barlaz, M.A., no date, Stability of Slopes in Landfills. (Includes the Rumpke trash-slide.)

DeLong, R., 1996, Those d----d redbeds: Ohio Geology, Summer 1996.

Hansen, M., 1995, Landslides in Ohio, Ohio Geological Survey, GeoFacts No. 8.

Hansen, M., 1986, When the hills come tumbling down— landslides in Ohio: Ohio Geology (Spring 1986).

Fisher, S.P., Fanaff, A.S., and Picking, L.W., 1968, Landslides of southeastern Ohio: Ohio Journal of Science, v. 68, no. 2, p. 65-80.

Islam, M. M., no date, Regulations governing development on hillsides in unicorporated Hamilton County, Ohio.

Liang, R.Y., 2005, Drilled shafts for landslide stabilization: ODOT Geotechnical Consultant Workshop.

Nandi, A. and Shakoor, A., 2006, Landslide susceptibility evaluation of Summit County, Northeast Ohio, using GIS techniques: GSA Abstracts with Programs, v. 38, no. 4, p. 60.

Pensomboon, G., 2007, Landslide Risk Management and Ohio Database: Ph.D. dissertation, University of Akron, 402 pp.

Pohana, R.E., 2006, Significant landslides in Cincinnati, Ohio-- their influence on the passage and implementation of grading regulations and stabilization programs: GSA Abstracts with Programs, v. 38, no. 4, p. 70.

Printed Papers and Reports

Haneberg, W.C., 1991, Pore pressure diffusion and the hydrologic response of nearly-saturated, thin landslide deposits to rainfall: Journal of Geology, v. 99, p. 886-892.

Haneberg, W.C., 1991, Observation and analysis of short-term pore pressure fluctuations in a thin colluvium landslide complex near Cincinnati, Ohio: Engineering Geology, v. 31, p. 159-184.

Haneberg, W.C., 1992, A mass balance model for the hydrologic response of fine-grained hillside soils to rainfall: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, 1992 Annual Meeting, v. 24, p. 203.

Johnson, A.M., Lowell, T.V., Nash, D., Cruikshank, K., Haneberg, W., Riestenberg, M., Neavel, K., Harrar, W., Olson, R., Rosemeyer, D., and Spurling, W., 1987, Report and recommendations on maintenance of deteriorating retaining walls and streets damaged by landslides, City of Cincinnati: City of Cincinnati Infrastructure Commission Internal Report, 48 p.

Web Sites

City of Cincinnati Geological Resources

City of Cincinnati Landslide Susceptibility Studies

Ohio Geological Survey

Ohio Valley Landslides, LLC

Ohio History Central

The Hillside Trust

Landslides? In Ohio?

Landslide blocking Hill Street in the Mount Adams neighborhood of Cincinnati, April 2011

Combined with on-the-ground mapping, laboratory soil testing, and slope stability calculations, high resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) help geologists to identify landslide prone areas in Ohio and around the world. Laser pulses bouncing off trees can be separated from those bouncing off of the ground, allowing the trees to be removed and landslide prone areas to be identified even beneath dense forest cover. Ohio is one of the first states to have complete publicly available LiDAR coverage.

Most landslides in the Cincinnati region involve clayey soil known as colluvium, particularly above specific geologic formations like the Ordovician age Kope Formation. Others involve clays deposited in lakes accumulated along retreating glaciers during past ice ages.

What may be the most infamous Ohio landslide occurred in March 1996 at the Rumpke sanitary landfill outside of Cincinnati. The trash-slide involved about 25 acres in an old part of the landfill. Some accounts maintain that the trash-slide was triggered by a lightning strike, but cracks were observed before the slide and later studies concluded that leachate (liquid seeping through the landfill) increased fluid pressure within the slope.  The base of the trash-slide was the same clayey colluvium that contributes to  landslide problems throughout the Cincinnati area, and the toe of the slope had been cut away by the landfill owner.

Upstream along the Ohio River, the rocks are different  but landslide problems persist.  Weak soils above the Mississippian age Bedford Shale in the Scioto River valley and the red rocks of the Pennnsylvanian age Conemaugh and Monongahela Groups throughout southeastern Ohio. Glacial deposits cause problems along the Cuyahoga River valley an Lake Erie coastal bluffs in northern Ohio. Rockfall can also present hazards, especially along highways and natural cliffs in southeastern Ohio.

Only one Ohio incident, a 1986 rock fall that crushed a car on US Highway 52 along the Ohio River valley near Ironton, is known to have been fatal.

Even if they are not fatal, landslides are almost always expensive to fix once they occur. A landslide along I-471 downhill from the Mt Adams neighborhood of Cincinnati was at one time the most expensive landslide in the country, costing about $44 million to stabilize. In addition to the cost of repair and odor control, the owner of the Rumpke landfill paid a $1 million fine to the State of Ohio after the 1996 trash-slide. In Cleveland, a landslide near Irishtown Bend threatens to block the Cuyahoga River and the mitigation cost is estimated at $219 million. Homeowners are often surprised to learn that their all hazard insurance almost always excludes earth movements like landslides and that the cost of mitigation can exceed the value of their homes.

High resolution digital elevation model (DEM) of landslide prone slopes along Hillside Avenue and Delhi Pike several miles west of downtown Cincinnati, created using airborne laser scanner (LiDAR) data available through the Ohio Statewide Imagery Program.